Rather than create a fully-digital smartwatch running Android Wear, Guess has stuck to its traditional timepiece roots with the Connect. It's a wristwatch that fuses some smart technology with a traditional analog mechanical design. It looks much the same as any of Guess's traditional watches -- including physical hands controlled by the crown on the side -- but uses a small digital display on the lower part of the face to perform smart functions.
That means all of your incoming calls, texts, emails and basically any other notifications from your smartphone will appear on your watch. You can use it to control the volume of your phone's audio, and it has microphones built in that allow you to control Siri on a connected iPhone or Google Now on an Android device. The technology isn't Guess's -- it actually comes from third party company Martian, who provides this smart technology for other manufacturers, so expect to see similar functionality arriving from traditional watch manufacturers in the future.
With its mechanical dials, the Guess Connect is best seen as mostly a traditional watch, with some extra smarts thrown in, rather than as a fully-fledged smartwatch. If you're not ready yet to upgrade your wrist to an all-digital Apple Watch or Android Wear model, it might be a good compromise. But, for me, the Guess Connect is overwhelmed by its downsides and limitations: It has no waterproofing whatsoever, it doesn't offer any kind of health tracking, it's big and bulky and it's not cheap.
That final issue is the real dealkiller. In the UK, its pricing -- £299 for the 45mm model, and £289 for the smaller 41mm model -- puts it far above decent Android Wear models like the Moto 360 and Huawei Watch. In the US -- where it's available at Guess stores and Macy's for $399 and $389 for the 45mm and 41mm sizes, respectively -- you can get those models as well as the Samsung Gear S2 or the Apple Watch for somewhat less, too. (The Guess Connect isn't available in Australia, but the US price converts to about AU$550.)
Unless you look particularly closely you probably won't be able to tell that the Connect has smart functions at all. It has a traditional watch face, with physical hands and a scattering of buttons on the right hand side. The face is round, surrounded by a machined metal bezel, and an angular metal chassis connects the watch body to the strap. It's visually very similar to Guess's Rigor watch, which doesn't have any smarts and so costs quite a bit less.
The watch looks good from the top, easily hiding its smart skills to masquerade as a regular timepiece. Move your gaze around it however and things go downhill. It's extremely thick, measuring about 16mm. It noticeably sticks out on your wrist, and looks quite cumbersome. I even found some jacket sleeves quite difficult to slip on while wearing it. I tested the 45mm version of the watch -- the largest model available -- which didn't help, but the smallest 41mm size isn't much of a reduction.
Worse still is the plastic back panel behind the face. Most of the body is made from sturdy-feeling metal so this slab of plastic really sticks out and spoils the look. It adds a very cheap feel to the watch, too, which is disappointing considering how well built the rest of the watch seems to be. The thick rubber strap is reasonably comfortable to wear.
On the right edge are two buttons on the top and bottom, which I'll come to shortly, as well as the crown which can be pulled out to alter the time shown by the hands. You'll also notice a small grille hiding the microphone, with a larger grille on the left side hiding the loudspeaker beneath a micro USB port for charging, covered by a rubber flap.
The watch has no waterproofing whatsoever, so you'll have to be extra careful when washing your hands or walking in the rain. Those uncovered microphone and speaker grilles could easily let liquids inside. It's a shame it's not at least splash-proof, given that water resistance is found on all Android Wear watches, as well as the Apple Watch.
The Connect links with Android and iOS phones, and the process of setup is made very simple with the Guess app. Once set up, the watch will display notifications along a small black and white display that's tucked away at the bottom of the watch face. It's a tiny display so doesn't provide much information, but it shows clearly who's trying to get in touch and via which app.
Pressing the top button on the side of the watch will boot up Siri or Google Now, allowing you to bark orders at your phone to make calls, send messages or search for things. I didn't make much use of it in my time, but then again I don't really use Siri anyway. If you often use voice controls on your phone, then having access to it without even taking your phone from your pocket could be quite handy.
The lower button cycles through functions on the watch, which includes music controls (play and pause whatever's playing on your phone), a flashlight (an LED that's terrible at being a flashlight) and a camera mode which opens the camera app on your phone (letting you take a photo using the watch's top button).
It's good to see some extra features beyond notifications being implemented, but the Guess Connect doesn't put them to great use. It's quite awkward to scroll through the menu using the small screen, and pressing play on your music will automatically pipe it through the watch's speaker rather than through your phone or headphones you might have connected. I also found regularly when attempting to play audio through my phone (podcasts while cooking, usually) that it would switch to trying to send it via Bluetooth to the watch. On several occasions I had to actually turn Bluetooth off on my phone to stop it. It's the sort of annoying hassle that really takes the shine off using Bluetooth connected devices.
The Bluetooth connection itself seemed to easily drop off as well, and I had to restart the watch several times during my time with it to get the connection back.
What you won't find on the watch is any kind of health tracking, heart rate monitoring, sleep monitoring or step counting. If you're after a smartwatch to help you lose the extra pounds in the new year, then the Guess Connect isn't for you. There's also no on-board storage, so you won't be able to save songs to the watch to playback with connected Bluetooth headphones.
The app is straightforward to use, and allows you to customise exactly which apps can send notifications to the watch. It also allows you to choose the vibration pattern each app uses -- allowing you to recognise certain patterns.
Guess says you're able to get 3-5 days of life out of the battery on a single charge, which is about accurate in my experience. Using it mostly to read incoming notifications (I get a lot of them), I got around four days of use. It's not bad battery life, but given it has such a tiny, black and white screen to power, I'd hope to see more.
The Guess Connect is very much a traditional watch with a few smart functions tacked on. If you're after a fully-fledged smartwatch, then you should look towards Android Wear (Motorola's new Moto 360 watches look great and costs a lot less) or Apple Watch. Even if you do like the Connect's mix of old and new, it's got a list of problems that make its asking price too high.
Its complete lack of water resistance is a big problem for starters, it's not particularly easy to navigate through menus on the watch itself, it's very bulky to wear and that plastic back panel really spoils the look.
I don't recommend spending this much money on the Guess Connect watch. If you like the design, go for Guess's fully-mechanical Rigor watch, which costs less than half the price. Pop a smaller fitness band like the Fitbit Charge on the other wrist if you want smart notifications on your wrist.